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If the Phillies want another big-ticket free agent they can afford it financially

If the Phillies really want another big-ticket free agent such as closer Craig Kimbrel they can clearly afford it from a financial perspective. (Dirk Hansen)

It was five months ago that Philadelphia Phillies principal owner John Middleton proclaimed that his club might be willing to spend stupid money in order to improve the roster for the 2019 season.

Over the course of the next few months, general manager Matt Klentak orchestrated a roster overhaul that included spending some of that money to bring in new lineup regulars in shortstop Jean Segura, outfielder Andrew McCutchen, and catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Klentak also signed young ace starting pitcher Aaron Nola to a contract that will guarantee the right-hander $45 million over the next four years with the possibility of a $16 million fifth season as well.

Middleton himself then got directly involved in delivering the final piece to the reconstruction puzzle with the addition of free agent grand prize Bryce Harper. The superstar outfielder would end up agreeing to a 13-year, $330 million contract.

The result has been a 25-man roster at the start of the 2019 season with a payroll just over the $140 million mark, the highest for the club since the 2015 season.

Per Cot’s Contracts the Phillies 40-man roster is at roughly $188 million committed towards the $206 million Competitive Value Tax threshold. That would leave the club approximately $17.85 million to spend this year for further additions without suffering any penalty, assuming they don’t also shed salary in a trade.

Forbes has now released their annual “The Business of Baseball” piece on Major League Baseball franchise values. Mike Ozanian and Kurt Badenhausen put the values together using the following methodology:

Team values are enterprise values (equity plus net debt) that include the economics of the ballpark but exclude the value of real estate itself. We also do not include the equity value of team-owned regional sports networks. The league’s ownership in Major League Baseball Advanced Media (100%), BamTech (15%), the MLB Network (67%) and league’s investment portfolio are included in our values, equally divided among the 30 teams. These three assets constitute over $400 million in value per team.

CLEARWATER, FL – MARCH 02: Managing Partner John Middleton high fives the Phillie Phanatic as he walks out moments before the press conference to introduce Bryce Harper to the media and the fans of the Philadelphia Phillies on March 02, 2019 at the Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

The Phillies are estimated by their calculations to be worth $1.85 billion, which ranks the team at ninth overall. Ranked above the Phillies are both of the New York and Los Angeles clubs, as well as Boston, Saint Louis, San Francisco and the Chicago Cubs.

Going a step further, Forbes also ranks the Phillies second overall in MLB in the area of Operating Income at the $94 million mark, just a million bucks shy of the top-ranked Dodgers.

What this means is that Middleton and the others in the Phillies ownership group are flush as far as their baseball team investment is concerned. They are in such great shape, in fact, that they could certainly afford to push the 2019 payroll past that CBT threshold if they so wish and still make a killing.

Middleton has already stated that the Phillies are willing to spend more if it makes sense and adds something of real value that the team is missing in order to better contend. So whether or not to go after free agent starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel or closer Craig Kimbrel is more a baseball decision than anything else.

The Phillies would like to give their in-house options on the current 40-man roster as many opportunities as possible to demonstrate whether or not they can be a part of the contending mix. That proof is not going to come over a couple of weeks worth of games, no matter the results or how frustrated the fan base may get with specific poor performances.

But the leash for those in-house options will not be infinite. If the time does come that moves absolutely need to be made in order to better keep the 2019 team in contention for a postseason berth, you can expect Middleton to give his blessing for more payroll to be added. The money is clearly there.



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